Heart Health

Things You Never Knew About Your Blood Pressure

blood pressure live chatYou’ve probably heard high blood pressure, or hypertension, called the “silent killer” because it can damage your arteries and organs without you ever realizing something is wrong. Not only can it damage your heart, but it can also cause stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, memory loss, erectile dysfunction, fluid buildup in the lungs and angina.

Join us on Tuesday, June 23, at 12:00 p.m. for a live, interactive web chat about “Things You Never Knew About Your Blood Pressure.” Dr. Carolina Gongora will be available to answer questions and discuss various topics about high blood pressure. For instance, did you know that common over the counter medication can increase your blood pressure? Did you know you can have high blood pressure and never experience any symptoms at all?

During this interactive web chat, you’ll be able to ask questions and get real-time answers from our Emory Healthcare professional.

Register now for our June 23 chat:

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About Dr. Gongora

Carolina Gongora, MDDr. Gongora is a Board certified cardiologist at the Emory Heart and Vascular Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Gongora went to medical school in Bogota, Colombia, where she is from originally. She moved to Atlanta in 2005. Before starting her training in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at Emory University, Dr. Gongora did a post doctoral research fellowship in hypertension and renal disease. Her research was partially funded by the American Heart Association. During this time she published in recognized journals like the Journal of American College of Cardiology, Hypertension and Circulation. Also, she presented in nationally renowned meetings, like the American Heart Association, the American Society of Hypertension and the American Physiology Society meetings, among others. She has been a member of the American College of Cardiology, the American Physiological Society and the American Heart Association-Council for high blood pressure. She is board certified in Cardiology, Internal Medicine and Echocardiography.

The Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean salmon saladBy now, you’ve likely heard about the Mediterranean Diet. You may have heard it’s good for you, can help you manage your weight and even allows you to enjoy some red wine. But is it true? Can you really enjoy yummy foods and still look and feel great? The answer is – ABSOLUTELY!

The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle change that helps decrease your risk of cardiovascular events in the future. Research has shown that people who incorporate plenty of produce, fish, whole grains and healthy fats not only weigh less, but also have a decreased risk for heart disease, depression, and dementia.

Because the Mediterranean diet should be a lifestyle choice, it involves the daily consumption of a variety of fruit, vegetables, vegetarian proteins (beans, nuts, legumes), moderate amounts of whole grains (whole wheat breads and pasta, brown rice) and small amounts of red meat. It is important to avoid processed and pre-packaged foods and meals, as they may provide excess fat, sodium and preservatives.

Here is an easy recipe I enjoy making for my family. The leftovers are great for lunch the next day! Feel free to add olives, peppers or any other vegetables of your choosing!

SALMON NICOISE SALAD

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1.5 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ground pepper

Vinaigrette
Wisk the following ingredients together:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper to taste

Salad

  • Salmon filets (I use ¾ pounds for 3 -4 servings but make a pound if I want more leftovers)
  • ¾ lb fingerling potatoes, boiled
  • large handful green beans, steamed
  • 4 eggs – hard boiled and cut into quarters
  • baby spring mix

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Marinate the salmon for 10-30 minutes.
  • Bake the salmon for 20 minutes (or until desired doneness) on a foil lined pan with marinade poured over the top. The salmon should be cooked through so it can be flaked apart into the salad.
  • Assemble the salad with the baby spring mix on the bottom and the eggs (quartered), green beans, potatoes and flaked salmon on top.

You can dress the entire salad with the vinaigrette or serve the salad and dress after. I reserve portions of spring mix, potatoes, egg, green beans and salmon to assemble in a Tupperware when cool for lunch the next day, and reserve a portion of the vinaigrette in a separate container.

Check out our other heart-healthy recipe ideas!

To discuss your risk factors for heart disease and to learn more ways to help prevent heart disease, please schedule an appointment with the Emory Women’s Heart Center by clicking here or calling HealthConnection at 404-778-7777.

About Dr. Cutchins

Alexis Cutchins, MDAlexis Cutchins, MD is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Cutchins completed medical school at Emory University School of Medicine before going to New York Presbyterian Hospital for her Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine. She completed an NIH-supported research fellowship in vascular biology and a clinical fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at the University of Virginia in 2012. She has a special interest in heart disease in women in addition to heart disease prevention and risk reduction in cardiology patients.

Dr. Cutchins has published several different articles on adipose tissue distribution and obesity in journals such as Circulation Research, Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology and Stroke and has a special interest in the effects of adipose tissue distribution on the heart.

Dr. Cutchins is board certified in Internal Medicine (2007) and Cardiovascular Diseases (2012). She is a member of several professional organizations including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Cutchins sees patients at Emory Heart & Vascular Center at Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory Heart & Vascular Center at Emory Saint Joseph’s.

She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, their three daughters and their dog. She loves to cook and ride horses.

Why is Screening for Heart Disease Important?

Cardiovascular ScreeningDid you know that Emory Healthcare offers preventive health and wellness screenings throughout the metro Atlanta area? Our goal is to improve the health of our patients and provide communities greater access to important screening services, as well as the Emory Healthcare Network of physicians and providers.

Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to the diagnosis, screening, treatment and prevention of heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned women’s heart specialist Gina Lundberg, MD, provides comprehensive heart screenings for patients at risk for cardiovascular disease as well as a full range of treatment options for those already diagnosed with heart disease.

Why is heart disease screening important?

Screenings are often the best way to identify risk factors that may contribute to heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), few people have “ideal risk levels on all screening tests. However, if you do have test results that are less than ideal, it doesn’t mean you’re destined to develop a serious cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, it means you’re in position to begin changing your health in a positive way.”

What does a heart disease screening entail?

Emory Women’s Heart Center offers three screening options which are based on the patient’s needs:

Plan A: ($75) Initial Assessment for All Women
Your initial screening includes a review for any family history of cardiovascular disease and a comprehensive global cardiac risk assessment that includes your age, blood pressure, total cholesterol level, HDL level, smoking history and hypertension history. You will also work directly with a nurse practitioner to develop an individualized plan that helps you reduce your identifed risk factors.

Our comprehensive examination includes:

  •  Body mass index
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol evaluation
  • Depression scale assessment
  • Fasting blood sugar test
  • Exercise recommendations
  • Physical exam
  • Pregnancy history
  • Sleep evaluation
  • Waist circumference
  • Weight consultation

Plan B: ($100) Women with Intermediate Risk, Hypertension or Diabetes Mellitus

  • Ankle brachial index (ABI) – Screening for circulation abnormalities in the lower extremities
  • Echocardiogram – Test to evaluate the structural aspects of the heart
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) – Test to evaluate the electrical conduction of the heart
  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) – Blood test to determine diabetes risk
  • Microalbuminuria – Urine test to screen for early kidney disease

Plan C: ($100) Women with Intermediate Risk or Diabetes Mellitus

  • Calcium score – Computed tomography (CT) of the coronary arteries to help determine risk for coronary disease or blockage

The AHA recommends that cardiovascular screening start at age 20. Use your screening as an opportunity to take charge of your health, modify unhealthy behaviors and have a positive impact on your life. To request an appointment with the Emory Women’s Heart Center, please call 404-778-7777 or click here.

Are You at Risk? Heart Disease Risk Factors

heart riskDid you know that, in some cases, heart disease is preventable? Being aware of your risk factors allows you to take control of your heart health!

Traditional risk factors for heart disease in men and women are:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)- can damage arteries by speeding up the atherosclerosis process.
  • Diabetes – women with diabetes have a two to four times higher risk of stroke or death from heart disease compared with women who do not have diabetes.
  • Age – women over 55 are more likely to have a heart attack.
  • High blood cholesterol- a high level of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can narrow the arteries as the deposits build up in the arteries.
  • Obesity- being overweight (Body Mass Index, BMI, over 25) can lead to high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
  • Family history – a person with a family history of heart disease is at higher risk for heart disease.
  • Lack of physical activity and poor diet – people who live sedentary lifestyles and eat unhealthy foods are more likely to develop heart disease.

Other risk factors for women that are not typically present in men include:

  • Metabolic syndrome— metabolic syndrome combines extra weight (fat) around your mid section, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”) and high triglycerides.
  • Mental stress and depression – If a person is depressed she is less likely to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Smoking – poses a greater risk to women than men.
  • Estrogen levels – lower levels of estrogen after menopause lead to microvascular disease or cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels.
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments for breast cancer
  • Pregnancy complications – history of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes as well as delivering a pre – term infant.
  • Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis – history of lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

Take Our Heart Disease Risk Quiz!

If you have any of the risk factors described above, we encourage you to schedule a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment with an Emory clinician. You may do so by calling 404-778-7777, or clicking to request an appointment specifically with the Emory Women’s Heart Center.

What’s Causing Your Leg Pain? – Join Us for a Live Web Chat!

PAD Live ChatPeripheral artery disease (PAD) is a commonly undiagnosed disease affecting about 8.5 million Americans. Symptoms vary from cramping in the lower extremities, as well as pain or tiredness in leg or hip muscles. According to the American Heart Association, many people mistake the symptoms of PAD for something else, which is why it can easily go undiagnosed. Having the correct diagnosis is important because people with PAD are at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke, and if untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation.

Many people think their leg pain is due to arthritis, sciatica or just a part of aging. People with diabetes may even confuse PAD pain with a neuropathy, a common diabetic symptom that causes a burning or painful discomfort of the feet or thighs. It is important to know that, while PAD is potentially life-threatening, it can be managed or even reversed with proper care. If you’re having any kind of recurring pain, talk to your healthcare professional.

Join me on Tuesday, March 24, at 12:00 p.m. for an interactive web chat entitled “What’s causing your leg pain?” Dr. Robertson will be available to answer questions and discuss various topics about PAD, including symptoms, diagnosis and misdiagnosis, prevention and treatment.

During this interactive web chat, you’ll be able to ask questions and get real-time answers from our Emory Healthcare professional.

Register now for our March 24 chat at emoryhealthcare.org/mdchats.

About Dr. Robertson

Gregory Robertson, MDGreg Robertson, MD, is the chief of the Emory Heart and Vascular Clinic at Johns Creek. At the Emory Johns Creek Hospital he is chief of cardiology and the medical director of the Cardiac Catheterization laboratory and interventional program. He is board certified in Vascular Medicine, Endovascular Medicine, Interventional Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine.

Dr. Robertson’s research has had a focus on the development of new technologies and techniques to treat blocked leg arteries in patients with peripheral arterial disease, helping patients walk farther and prevent limb amputation in diabetic patients. While in the San Francisco Bay Area for 16 years before moving to Atlanta, he practiced with the well-known medical device inventor Dr. John Simpson, whose development teams invented the atherectomy procedure and the first percutaneous arterial closure device. Atherectomy is a procedure which allows the physician to remove plaque in blocked arteries without major surgery. His newest project is with Dr. Simpson’s invention of the Avinger Ocelot and Pantheris devices which open blocked arteries using smart laser imaging.

Dr. Robertson’s clinical expertise is oriented on performing minimally-invasive procedures to avoid major surgery. He has developed many of the vascular programs at the new Emory Johns Creek Hospital including 1) carotid artery stenting, 2) percutaneous repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms and 3) limb preservation for those at risk of limb amputation. He has also developed the cardiac intervention programs for emergency heart attack victims and elective procedures to include PCI and PFO/ASD closure.

Cutting-Edge Therapies for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common monogenetic cardiovascular disorder occurring in about 1 per 500 people in the general population. Approaches to the treatment of HCM vary considerably depending on how the patient is affected. At Emory Healthcare, we are fortunate to have true experts capable of providing state-of-art therapies which range from genetic counseling or simple life-style adjustments to cardiac transplantation. Patients at risk for sudden cardiac death receive life-saving cardiac defibrillators. Those with drug-refractory symptoms due to obstruction of outflow from the heart receive septal reduction either by open heart surgery or by catheter ablation. The Emory Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center is a regional and national center of excellence capable of addressing the full range of challenges in the patient with HCM.

For more information about programs that make up the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/heart.

About John Douglas, MD

John Douglas, MDDr. John Douglas is an interventional cardiologist at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center. He is also a Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and Director of the Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Program. He is one of the most tenured Emory cardiologists, beginning his career in 1974. He has been recognized in America’s Top Doctors, Atlanta’s Top Doctors and The Best Doctors in America.

Advancing Patient-Centered Cardiac Care

Patient Centered Cardiac CareOne of the chief goals of quality healthcare, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is to provide patient-centered care. Doing so requires “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions” (Institute of Medicine, 2001). As patients know, this kind of care doesn’t always happen. Providing patient-centered care requires effective communication and a trusting relationship. It also requires high-quality evidence regarding what forms of treatment are most likely to advance patients’ goals.

Emory has placed patient and family centered care at the top of the list of priorities and is taking important steps to make this happen. The Patient and Family Advisor program, for example, has created a way for patients and families to be “at the table” in important discussions about the way that care is delivered within our system. The clinicians at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center are active participants in helping to transform care at Emory and are committed to working with our patients to provide them with care that is most consistent with their goals. My colleague Dr. Cassimatis, for example, recently wrote on this blog a very helpful set of tips that will help patients to get the most out of their visit and ensure that their questions are answered. Emory cardiologists are committed to answering these questions and to working with patients and their family members to make decisions that are often complex.

Emory cardiologists are also actively conducting research to advance the mission of patient-centered care. Emory physicians are studying how our patients want us to communicate with them about research studies for which they might be eligible. Emory physicians are studying what information is most important to patients undergoing evaluation and treatment for severe heart failure. And Emory physicians are studying the role of new tools for communicating with patients about the risks and benefits of cardiac procedures. These are just a few examples of the ways that Emory physicians and researchers are helping to improve communication and facilitate the kind of trusting relationship that is essential to effective patient-centered care.

Because no decision can adequately reflect patients’ values without evidences, Emory doctors are also at the forefront of conducting clinical research studies that are essential to address many of the pressing problems that patients face. It is only through well-done research that we will have the information our current and future patients need to make decisions that are consistent with their goals.

In all of these ways, the clinicians at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center are committed to ensuring, and to helping other doctors ensure, that patients’ decisions match their values as much as possible.

If you have feedback or suggestions on how to improve patient-centered care at Emory Healthcare, please let us know by leaving a comment below. To make an appointment with an Emory cardiologist or cardiovascular specialist, please call 404-778-7777.

About Dr. Dickert

Neal Dickert, MD, PhDNeal Dickert, MD, PhD is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology. He also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health and is a senior faculty fellow at the Emory Center for Ethics. He also serves as associate program director for the cardiology fellowship program. Dr. Dickert received his MD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Dickert is board-certified in cardiology and internal medicine. Clinically, Dr. Dickert practices in the Emory University Hospital and Atlanta VA Medical Center Cardiac Care Units. Dr. Dickert’s research focuses on ethical issues relevant to cardiology practice and clinical research.

Irregular Heartbeat: Is it Normal? – Join Us for a Live Web Chat!

Arrhythmia live chatHave you ever felt like your heart skipped a beat? Do you experience palpitations or “fluttering?” This is a symptom of a very common rhythm disorder called an arrhythmia. Arrhythmias are common in young- and middle-aged adults. Some arrhythmias are relatively harmless, but others can be fatal if not treated. Nearly 1,000,000 people are hospitalized for an arrhythmia each year, and some arrhythmias, such as Atrial Fibrillation, are extremely common and affect over 2,500,000 million Americans.

Other symptoms of arrhythmia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting (syncope) or near-fainting spells
  • Rapid heartbeat or pounding
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • In extreme cases, collapse and sudden cardiac arrest

Join me on Tuesday, February 24, at 12:00 p.m. for a live, interactive web chat on the topic of “Living With and Treating Arrhythmias.” Dr. Michael Hoskins will be available to answer questions and discuss various topics about arrhythmias, including symptoms, diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

During this interactive web chat, you’ll be able to ask questions and get real-time answers from our Emory Healthcare professional.

Register now for our February 24 chat at emoryhealthcare.org/mdchats.

About Dr. Hoskins

Michael Hoskins, MDMichael Hoskins, MD , is an assistant professor of medicine and electrophysiologist who practices primarily at Emory University Hospital. Dr. Hoskins received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, after which he completed his residency in internal medicine at Emory. He was chief resident in Internal Medicine from 2005 to 2006. He then completed fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology, also at Emory, and has been practicing here since 2010. He specializes in treating cardiac arrhythmias, focusing on ablation of arrhythmias and implantation and management of pacemakers and defibrillators.

About Emory’s Arrhythmia Center

Emory’s Arrhythmia Center is one of the most comprehensive and innovative clinics for heart rhythm disorders in the country. Our electrophysiologists have been pioneers in shaping treatment options for patients with arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, as well as for those with congestive heart disease. Our specialized electrophysiology (EP) labs host state-of-the-art equipment, including computerized three-dimensional mapping systems to assist with the ablation of complex arrhythmias, and an excimer laser system to perform pacemaker and defibrillator lead extractions.

Patients with devices, whether implanted at Emory or elsewhere, have access to Emory’s comprehensive follow-up care. Patients benefit from remote monitoring, quarterly atrial fibrillation support groups and 24-hour implantable cardiac device (ICD) and pacemaker monitoring services. Inpatient telemetry and coronary care units, as well as outpatient care and educational support of patients with pacemakers and ICDs, complete Emory’s comprehensive range of arrhythmia treatments and services.

Go Red for Your Heart

Go Red AtlantaHeart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, but in many cases it’s preventable. That’s why Emory Healthcare would like to invite you to join us at one of our women’s heart health events in celebration and recognition of Heart Month in February, as well as Mother’s Day in May.

During these fun, educational events, participants will have an opportunity to meet Emory Women’s Heart Center physicians and staff and learn about how to prevent, detect and treat heart disease. You will also have the opportunity to purchase products and services from our vendors who will be on hand providing consultations, displaying jewelry, sharing healthy foods, etc.

To learn more, please call Emory HealthConnection℠ at 404-778-7777. The events are free! Parking will be available in hospitals’ main parking lots.

Go Red Event Details

When: Friday, February 6, 2015, 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Where: Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Doctors Building Atrium

When: Friday, February 20, 2015, 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Where: Emory University Hospital, Hospital Auditorium

When: Friday, May 8, 2015, 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Where: Emory University Hospital Midtown, Medical Office Tower Atrium

Take action to prevent heart disease by attending a women’s heart health event and don’t forget to WEAR RED!

About the Emory Women’s Heart Center

Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to screening, preventing and treating heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned cardiologist Gina Lundberg, MD provides comprehensive cardiac risk assessment and screenings for patients at risk for heart disease as well as full range of treatment options for women already diagnosed with heart disease care. Find out if you are at risk for heart disease by scheduling your comprehensive cardiac screening. Call 404-778-7777.

Congenital Heart Disease: Staying in Specialty Care Saves Lives

Congenital Heart DiseaseCongenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting approximately 8 per 1000 births in the US. The severity of these defects ranges from mild defects that don’t require surgery to critical heart defects that require surgery within the first year of life for the baby to survive.

Advances in medical and surgical care have significantly improved survival for all CHDs, even the most complex, severe defects. As a result of these advances, the majority of children born with a heart defect now survive to adulthood, and the number of adults with congenital heart defects exceeds the number of children with CHD.

Despite these childhood successes, many adults with congenital heart disease face late complications, hospitalizations, need for medications, future surgeries, and may die at a younger age than their counterparts without a heart defect. The surgeries that permitted childhood survival often are a repair, rather than a “cure.” For this reason, those born with congenital heart defects require ongoing regular specialty care across the lifespan.

Unfortunately, some patients and their providers have the perception that the heart defect has been “cured.” The gaps in care resulting from this misperception can be harmful. Guidelines recommend that all adults with congenital heart defects stay in regular cardiology care, and those with moderate to complex (more severe defects) should receive care in an Adult Congenital Heart Center.

A recent publication showed that adults with congenital heart defects who receive care in an ACHD specialty center do better than those who receive non-specialty care, or receive no care at all. Those with more severe defects have the most to gain from specialty care. Unfortunately, less than a third of the patients who need this life saving specialty care actually receive care from an ACHD Center.

So what’s so special about an ACHD center?

  • Practice makes perfect. High-volume specialized centers improve patient outcomes by increasing physician experience, skill, and coordinated specialty teams.
  • Multidisciplinary teams work together to provide optimal care.
  • New and novel interventional and surgical techniques are developed at the centers.
  • Ongoing research gives patients access to cutting-edge treatments.
  • Resources are more readily available in a specialized center.

About the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia

The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia is an internationally recognized cardiology service that specializes in the care of adults with congenital heart defects (CHDs). Emory’s adult congenital heart program is the only adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) program in the state of Georgia, and is one of the largest programs in the country. Physicians at Emory’s Adult Congenital Heart Center have additional specialty training, beyond cardiology fellowship, in the diagnosis and management of adult with congenital heart defects.

Our Physicians

Appointments

To schedule an appointment at the Emory University Hospital campus, please call 404-778-5545. To schedule an appointment at our new Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital campus, please call 404-778-6070. You can also request an appointment at either location by clicking here.

About Dr. Book

Wendy Book, MDWendy Book, MD, is the director of the Emory Adult Congenital Heart Center. She has 15 years of experience in adult congenital heart disease, including clinical and research experience. She has a background in heart failure, transplantation and pulmonary hypertension, which complement skills of other Emory Adult Congenital Heart Center physicians. She is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular disease, Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology.

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